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To get the job, get specific

4 min read


Today’s guest post was written by  Gary W. Capone, vice president and co-founder of Palladian International, an executive recruiting firm specializing in manufacturing, distribution and defense industries. Gary is the primary author of the Palladian Career Resources Blog and co-author of “Power Up Your Job Search: A Modern Approach to Interview Preparation.”

Most job seekers fail to provide a compelling reason why they should be hired. To beat the competition, job seekers need to demonstrate the value they offer, which is what hiring managers are looking for.

Successful job seekers can clearly articulate what they did and the results they achieved. By showing past successes, a job seeker can demonstrate the potential for future successes. The key is being specific. General statements will not impress anyone. The job seeker needs to provide very specific examples of what they have done – specific enough that the hiring manager can picture the job seeker in the role.

I recommend a systematic method for preparing to interview. Within this process, three critical elements stand out:

  • Develop a positioning statement. A positioning statement provides a clear, simple way of communicating the value and potential you offer. Learning to articulate your positioning statement is critical to interviewing effectively. Below are three positioning statements, in order of “good, better, best.”
    • The basic statement simply summarizes the career background of the job seeker. Many job seekers have a positioning statement like this. It is informative, but doesn’t sell the candidate: “I am a Supply Chain Professional with 15 years experience in distribution and logistics.”
    • The better positioning statement includes a little more information and adds a little hype. Adding “highly successful” sounds better but won’t do a lot to impress hiring managers. Adding the industries does help and provides useful information: “I am a highly successful supply chain professional, with 15 years experience leading distribution and logistics functions within retail distribution.”
    • The best positioning statement is specific, focusing on distribution and logistics and not the broader supply chain term. It also focuses on the contributions of the job seeker – reducing costs while maintaining customer service levels. Adding an example makes the positioning statement much more effective. “I am an experienced Distribution and Logistics Manager with a track record of cutting costs while maintaining customer services levels within retail distribution. For example, I led a project that… [provide an example of an accomplishment that demonstrates the ability cut costs while increasing customer service levels]”
  • Stories of specific accomplishments. The best way to demonstrate your potential is to show a hiring manager what you have done. My book teaches the STAR method of answering questions. With this method, the job seeker describes a situation, their thoughts about the situation, the actions they took and the results they achieved.  This example illustrates an accomplishment in a distribution center.: “I implemented changes to our schedule and our pick plan leading to higher efficiencies and while increasing customer service levels. The distribution center operated with two eight-hour shifts, giving us 16 hours each day to pick and load customer orders. I added a small 3rd shift to focus on picking low volume items. This allowed first and second shift to operate much more efficiently. The gains on these shifts were so significant that they more than made up for the cost of adding 3rd shift. Overall, this change saved $240,000 the first year and our on-time performance improved from 97% to 99%”
  • Practice: By far my favorite interview prep technique is conducting mock interviews. When a job seeker simulates an interview, with a live interviewer, they learn much faster. The mock interviews are most effective after the job seeker has worked on their positioning statement and has learned the STAR method. Exercises in my book can help job seekers develop specific stories from their background that they can discuss in an interview. One example:  Describe your key accomplishments over the last five years. From these, write a few short stories explaining how you changed a process to cut costs.

What are some of your favorite techniques for preparing for interviews?

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